Tuesday, May 28, 2013

spiaggia - chicago, il

980 north michigan avenue
chicago, il 60611

about the restaurant:
- opened in 1984, and has been considered one of the countries finest italian restaurants ever since
- spiaggia means "beach" in italian, and the restaurant fittingly overlooks lake michigan
- helmed by chef/partner tony mantuano and executive chef sarah grueneberg
- dinner only with both al a carte and tasting menu options available
- one michelin star, four from the chicago tribune
details of our visit:
when i first seriously started getting into restaurants and fine dining, spiaggia was one of the first chiacgo based restaurants i looked into. however, it took three years and over ten trips to chicago to finally commit to the restaurant. while i had certainly read/heard good things about spiaggia, i had also encountered a several negative reports where phrases like "dated", "overpriced", and "rude", were reoccurring themes. having been to virtually all of chicago's other fine dining powerhouses (some more than once), it was on this trip that it was finally time to see what spiaggia was about first hand.

our reservation was made via opentable for 7:00pm. on a tuesday night. i requested a table with a view in the opentable comments box, and we were seated at a two top in the window just as i hoped. for food, we opted for the reimagined classics pasta tasting menu, and added an extra course for good measure. the beverage pairing featuring both wine and cocktails was also ordered.
focaccia, grissini, basil ricotta, and whole grain with sesame seeds served with salted butter
amuse bouche - poppy seed brioche, pine nut gelato, crispy pancetta
pasta primavera - acini di pepe pasta with spring vegetables, pecorino toscano, artichoke honey and barilotto ricotta
botanist gin, contratto bianco, prosecco, basil, mint
spaghetti marinara - setaro spaghetti, sea urchin, fried ghost shrimp, yellow tomato, arugula
2010 petite arvine, elio ottin, valle d'osta 

fettuccine alfredo w/ chicken - fettuccine pasta, parmigiano regiano, jidori chicken skin, freshly shaved black summer truffles
junipero gin, mirto, passion fruit, coriander 
potato gnocchi (supplemental course) - ricotta sauce, savini black truffle
unknown red wine

stuffed shells - shell pasta, ricotta, porcini, nettles, basil feed snails
2009 rosso di valtellina, ar. pe, pe., lombardia 
veal parm - braised veal, roasted flour tagliolini, burrata, san marzano tomato, basil, parmigiano reggiano
2009 barbera d'asti 'ca di pian', la spinetta, monferrato, piemonte

neapolitan ice cream sandwich -  semi frozen mousse of strawberry, pistachio, and coconut with lemon pizzelle cookies
montenegro amaro, polti miele, and moscato 


very formal and distant, but certainly not rude or condescending. there was one issue at the start of the meal...our first course was dropped and explained, and it was just after the server walked away that we realized we were without our first drink pairing. after about a minute of waiting, i flagged somebody down and the situation was rectified, but at this type of restaurant such an error should not occur. we were poured an uncharged wine with the supplemental gnocchi course later in the meal, which may have been just because, but could have been to make up for the miscue. 

both carrie and myself were very satisfied with everything. the highlights were the basil ricotta bread, the spaghetti, the fettuccine, and the gnocchi. as a child, fettuccine alfredo was always one of my favorites, and spiaggia's take with black truffles and chicken skin was incredible. i will say that, having the fettuccine, gnocchi, and stuffed shells back to back to back was richness overload, and by the end of the meal i felt more full than i have been in along time. the beverage pairing was definitely worth doing, and i especially liked the two gin based cocktails.

overall thoughts:
my expectations were definitely exceeded. the setting was beautiful, and watching the weather go from sunny to storming to calm darkness from our window seat was very enjoyable. if i lived in chicago, i would be tempted to go back to try the next iteration of the pasta tasting menu (the one we had was the second of four), as it truly is a great deal.

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